Tom Watson says government 'fake news' unit is 'nothing but spin' as details withheld

Labour’s Tom Watson has said a proposed government unit to tackle fake news is “itself fake news” after a number of his questions on the topic received no answer in Parliament.

Watson asked four questions about the progress of the new National Security Communications Unit, announced last week as a tool to combat “disinformation by state actors and others”.

Watson, the Shadow Culture Secretary asked about the unit’s remit, location, staff and allocation of resources, but all were unable to be answered by Cabinet Office minster David Liddington.

In his responses, Liddington repeatedly said: “The Cabinet Office has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period.

“An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”

Watson, also Labour’s deputy leader, told the Mirror: “It seems the Prime Minister’s fake news announcement was itself fake news.

“The government can’t say what the National Security Communications Unit’s remit is, where it will be based, how many staff it will have or what resources will be allocated to it.

“It may have made headlines, but until ministers can answer the most basic questions about it, their big story is nothing but spin. It’s typical of Theresa May: once you scratch the surface, there’s nothing there.”

A spokesperson for the Government said it was “committed to tackling disinformation”.

They added: “We will build on existing capabilities by creating a dedicated National Security Communications unit and the NSCR will set out further details when published”

The progress of Labour’s fake news inquiry is unknown, after it was kicked into the long grass prior to last year’s snap general election having first been launched by Watson in December 2016.

An inquiry into fake news is currently ongoing at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, led by committee chairman Damian Collins MP.

Picture: Reuters/Neil Hall

Comments

1 thought on “Tom Watson says government 'fake news' unit is 'nothing but spin' as details withheld”

  1. If the Government is serious about disinformation, it could start by looking at the Department for Education. Last week, for example, it sent out a press release quoting words the new education secretary Damian Hinds said in a speech to the Education World Forum. Only he didn’t. None of the cited passages were in the speech and the alleged quotes sounded rather like those spouted by schools minister Nick Gibb.

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